International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial body of the UN. Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter. It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.

Documents: Government Statements | UN Documents | Civil Society Documents | International Organization Statements

Selection Process

The Court is composed of 15 judges serving in their individual capacities. Candidates are first nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. From the list of candidates, judges are elected to nine-year terms by an absolute majority in both the General Assembly (97 votes) and Security Council (8 votes). The timing of elections is staggered so that the GA elects a third of the Court once every three years.

The ICJ statute describes qualified candidates as "persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or are jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law." Past judges have been law professors, diplomats, and judges.

Although the judges do not represent their nations but act as independent agents, there cannot be more than one judge of each nationality.

As a matter of practice, the Court often includes judges with the same nationality as one of the States party to a case. A State party with a case before the ICJ, when no judge of its nationality is a member of the Bench, may choose a justice to sit ad hoc on the bench.


The Current Bench

Region Judge Country Date elected* Term ends
African States Julia Sebutinde Sierra Leone       2011 Feb 2021
Mohamed Bennouna Morocco July 2005 Feb 2015
Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf Somalia Nov 2008 Feb 2018
Asian States Hisashi Owada Japan Oct 2002 Feb 2021
Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh Jordan Nov 2008 Feb 2018
Xue Hanqin China June 2010 Feb 2021
Eastern European States Peter Tomka Slovakia Oct 2002 Feb 2021
Leonid Skotnikov Russian Federation July 2005 Feb 2015
Latin American and Caribbean States Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor Mexico July 2005 Feb 2015
Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade Brazil Nov 2008 Feb 2018
Western European and Other States Bruno Simma Germany Oct 2002 Feb 2012
Ronny Abraham France Nov 2008 Feb 2018
Kenneth Keith New Zealand July 2005 Feb 2015
Joan E. Donoghue United States Sep 2010 Feb 2015
Christopher John Greenwood United Kingdom Nov 2008 Feb 2018

*Note that the date elected is not the same as the date of taking office, which is always February 6 of the following year. Members elected to fill unexpected vacancies may be elected and enter into office at any time of year.


Recent Developments
 

 

 

Coming Up

Elections began to appoint five judges to the International Court of Justice on the 6th of November and continued throughout the day.  By the end of the day, four candidates had obtained the necessary votes in both the General Assembly and Security Council, and were appointed to the ICJ. It was decided to hold elections for the fifth judge the following day.  

The two remaining candidates were Susana Ruiz Cerutti (an Argentinian) and Patrick Lipton Robinson (a Jamaican).  After several rounds of voting on the 7th of November, the same candidate did not meet the required voting threshold in both the Assembly and the Security Council. As a result, an additional round of voting would be necessary to determine who would be appointed to the ICJ.  

Elections for the fifth available seat on the International Court of Justice will continue on the 17th of November.  


Sources
 

Related UNelections Monitors:

Issue 85 - November 12 - Five Judges Elected to International Court of Justice